There seems to be a plethora of articles recently about people becoming depressed or fixated with trying to keep up with the ‘Joneses’ on social media. People are putting pressure on themselves to be as successful, as slim, as beautiful, as rich, as happy as their Facebook friends. Some are leaving social media to get themselves out of that loop.
I enjoy Facebook – I know that people either put up the very good or the very bad (or yes, there are those who put up the boringly mundane) stuff about themselves but generally there’s a feel good factor – people showing holiday photos, days out, funny pics, their baking successes and flops. I can see why some would feel under pressure to rise to the occasion with their own facebook updates. If all of your mates are putting up pictures of brilliant weekends and you’re sitting at home with the Late Late Show yet again – but if there’s one good thing about being over 40, it’s that you get to the stage that you don’t give ?a damn about what anyone else thinks. I was amused once when chatting to someone who worked in an office over a weekend and she remarked how the day out would be something to tell her co-workers about on Monday. I went ‘gosh, do people still do that?’ I’ve been self employed for so long or maybe it is because I see people’s updates on social media that I never think of comparing weekend or relating events.
It made me think – do I envy the success of other authors? As a self published author, do I feel constricted by own very limited success and do I envy them, do I want to be them, do I want to be them so badly that it almost paralyses me? No. I hugely admire JK Rowling for example but I know I’d never write the genres that she writes so I just enjoy her. I met Donal Ryan last night and listened to him talking about his books and his writing and publishing process, his thoughts on being rejected so many times and his huge success in the last two years. I admire him for his writing skills, his passion, his staying power, his humour and yes, I would love if my books sold more widely but I don’t want to be like him so much that I want to copy him. He really was inspiring and he inspired me to think that I should pull my 40,000 word novel out of dropbox and see if I can do something with it later this year.
I wasn’t always like that though. Five years ago, I wanted more children – to the extent that I was depressed. Hearing of people being pregnant with their third child was like a kick in the stomach. Seeing families with three or four children was difficult. I had the two most wonderful children in the world, I knew I was so lucky and yet I couldn’t feel it. I would tell myself that I was lucky to be so blessed and yet it was like I was numb, I just couldn’t feel it.
Owen Fitzpatrick wrote a post recently that reminded me of something he said to me at the time and yes, it worked. It took a little while for it to sink in and infiltrate through my numbness and my thick skin but it got there. ?I had invited a friend, her husband and their two children for Sunday lunch and the week before, I heard the news that she was pregnant with her third child. I was seriously considering cancelling their visit as I really didn’t want to be thinking horrible stuff for days about someone that I really liked and obviously I wanted her to have a happy and healthy pregnancy. ?Watching ‘Julie and Julia’ a couple of weeks ago reminded me of it too – when Julia gets a letter from her sister announcing her first pregnancy, she is overjoyed for her sister but weeps with the agony of it.
I had phoned my “straight-talking-no-bull shrink” from the Not Enough Hours programme, and Owen asked me if I would like to swop my two children with my friend’s three children. My instant reaction was one of horror. Now, of course, her kids are fabulous and she is going to think they are the best in the world but there was no way I would swop my two for anyone or anything. After all, not only did I feel sorry for anyone who didn’t have children and desperately wanted them but I also felt sorry for all the people who didn’t have kids as wonderful as mine!!! And, yes, I still do!
It took a while for the depression to shift fully but I know that what Owen said to me that day definitely shifted my mode of thinking. This blog post explains it much more fluently than I ever could but essentially you may envy someone else their success and their popularity to the extent that you would like to be them but if it cost you everything you hold dear in your own life, would you really want to be them?
I think the best feeling in the world is to be happy in your own skin. Yes, I wouldn’t mind being thinner, taller, beautiful but to be honest, I don’t want to be thin bad enough to make me eat significantly less and go running every day so I kinda have to be happy with how I am. I’m not sure if those feeling came with hitting 40 or not but it is wonderful to feel genuinely happy and blessed on a daily basis and also to not give a sh1t what anyone thinks too. No comparing with the Joneses! Apparently farmers tend to be very risk adverse as they worry about what the neighbours would say if it didn’t work out – I don’t think Brian and I were cut from that mould somehow. ?As Owen says, we owe it to ourselves to be the best version of ourselves we can possibly be, to learn from others and be inspired by them but to realise how lucky we really are – just as ourselves. And no, I wouldn’t want to be Brian O’Driscoll either or his wife – imagine having to play rugby or listen to rugby stories or horror of horrors, watch rugby from the sidelines on a regular basis! Having to help out during difficult calvings or talk about AI bulls is so much more interesting – I promise!
Great post, I really enjoyed this one. It is so easy to look at what we don’t have and what we aren’t, and forget to appreciate that which we do have which is often wonderful. I suffer often with FOMO (fear of missing out) which is such a waste of time! I am making an effort these days to focus more on what I have and where I am, and know that I am where I am supposed to be and how it is all pretty wonderful actually!
Thanks Amanda 🙂 That’s the term I couldn’t think of when I was writing the post – FOMO, that people feel that they aren’t being included or aren’t keeping up with others. I can remember once, when working in London, as we were all saying goodbye to each other at the end of a working day, one girl said ‘see you later’ which I took to mean that they were all meeting later on that evening and I was left out. Took me a couple of weeks to realise that ‘see you later’ was her version of ‘goodbye’!
People talk about leaving phones behind and being ‘in the present’ and yes, I agree but there’s no better way to enjoy the ‘present’ than to enjoy it for its own sake and not thinking about what you’ll share later on fb etc.
M T McGuire
That’s a great way to think about it (I have one lad and would have loved to have made him a brother or sister) and I’m absolutely with you on the being happy in your own skin. You have to learn to love yourself… it took me ages though. 😉
Know the feeling, though when I think about it, the only time I really didn’t like myself was when I felt guilty for my immune system attacking and killing tiny embryos. We are silly at times though, when one thinks that we are supposed to be the most intelligent of the animal species.
I do like being over 40 🙂 It was at 40 I eventually relaxed about a lot of stuff. Cheers, L
Great post, Lorna. I don’t think anyone who lives their lives in a constant swirl of envy can ever be happy. Even when things go right, they can be dependent on other people envying them to feel successful.
I don’t get too bothered by people who spend all their time boasting on Facebook either, but I must admit, when times are tough, I find myself having to kick them out of my news feed!!
Good point Tara re how some people are depending on other’s envy to feel good about themselves. I can see how it happens.
Yep, can admit some people can get a bit irritating too – I tend to get a bit over excited when things go well and am conscious that I should rein it in a bit. It’s all about sharing the pics of the queen cakes that didn’t rise (like mine this morning) along with the perfect cakes 🙂
I’m with you there Lorna. I have had ups and downs in life, and I still have dreams and ambitions, but I am more than happy with who I am and where I am.
I also think you should be hugely proud of your achievements to date, not only with your family and work, but with your published book and, your hopefully soon to be published second book.
Thanks Tric, yes, I’m v happy with what I’ve achieved in the last year thank you – delighted with how it has all gone and it’s exciting seeing it take shape too. Onwards and upwards – it is nice to have ambition for things that are achieveable rather than pie in the sky things. Now, I know my husband would love me to have tidy paperwork and a tidy kitchen as a goal on a daily basis but life’s too short for such ambitions as those. Funny how some would see those as normal and I see them as ridiculous goals 😉
Lovely, thoughtful and well-written post Lorna.That cliche that people find trite – count your blessings – really is the best advice anyone can have. People waste so much time wishing for something different, that they often don’t appreciate or enjoy what they have … and if they did suddenly find themselves with what they were wishing for, they would start to wish for something new.
Thank you Sally, very true. Ambition is one thing but wanting something so badly that it either paralyses you or its absence makes you miserable isn’t healthy.
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